On Memorial Day: remembering the "Four Chaplains"

A reader alerted me to this item in the Huffington Post, recalling the so-called “Immortal Chaplains” who went down with the USAT Dorchester in 1943.

As Wikipedia notes:

The “Immortal Chaplains” were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel during the sinking of the troop ship USAT Dorchester during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

The four men were relatively new chaplains, who all held the rank of lieutenant. They included Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington and Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities, and faiths were different, although Goode, Poling and Washington had all served as leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.[1] They would meet at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University, where they would prepare for assignments in the European theater, sailing onboard USAT Dorchester to report to their new assignments.

But it turns out only three of the four now have a memorial at Arlington:

All four chaplains died together after giving their lifejackets to save others on board. Survivors of the attack witnessed the four praying together as the ship went down in the icy waters. Yet the names of only three of these fallen heroes are presently memorialized on Chaplain’s Hill at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, none of the 13 Jewish chaplains who have died in service to our country are listed on the three chaplains’ monuments in our nation’s most sacred resting place.

The author goes on to describe the efforts to have Rabbi Goode’s name added to Chaplain’s Hill — along with other Jewish chaplains.  Read the rest. This is an oversight — and an injustice — that should be corrected.

May all those who have served so selflessly rest in peace.  And may we never forget what they gave for us.

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7 responses to “On Memorial Day: remembering the "Four Chaplains"”

  1. Please do not also forget, Father Vincent Capodanno. He gave his life in Vietnam for his Marines and Sailors. He is also from Staten Island. Semper Fidelis!

  2. Thanks, Greg! Both for the original story of the Four Chaplains as well as the story that Rabbi Goode has been neglected by a number of memorials.

  3. Great story, never heard that one before. That was from a time when Harvard was not rabidly anti-military and did not ban ROTC from the school.

    Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown blasted Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust for her comments. “I am extremely disappointed to learn of Harvard University’s decision to continue to ban ROTC from its campus,” he said in a statement reported by the Globe. “It is incomprehensible to me that Harvard does not allow ROTC to use its facilities, but welcomes students who are in this country illegally.”

    It wasn’t until March 2011, that Harvard lifted the ban only after the government threatened to cut off all federal funding of the school — Solomon Amendment.

    So far, Harvard is the only Ivy to allow ROTC back.

  4. Another tidbit along the way. . .

    Of all of the men who were awarded Congressional Medals of Honor during the Vietnam War, only two were Chaplains and both of those two were Roman Catholic priests.

  5. There is a small monument to the Four Chaplains in front of the parish church of St Francis De Sales in Belle Harbor, Rockaway, Queens in Brooklyn Diocese.

  6. I am Deacon Herb who serves at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, NJ where Fr. Washington was an Assitant Pastor. We have a Fr. Washington Mass every Febuary (First Sunday). All of the veterans come to celabrate with great fanfare. We also had the street along the side of the church named for him as Father John P. Washington Way.

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